The Hollow

Just an old man and his thoughts/feelings about having survived child abuse. I'm just one voice of many who are survivors.

Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

I tend to be reclusive, hate crowds, can't stand loud noise, and talk too much once I know and trust you. I have a 'New Yorker' attitude and accent. Love Jewish and Italian food. I'm Hebrew when convenient and Buddhist when serious. I am INTP. See

Sunday, April 03, 2005

An Oprah Moment

Wow. It has been one hell-of-a-good week. An “I can’t believe it” week. A college professor with a PhD from a university known for its Social Work curriculum (that’s BSW, MSW, and PhD) and provides on-site classes for State social workers, is having my memoir, “Hollow in the Woods,” as required reading as part of the curriculum. He is also sending a copy of the book with his recommendation to the Deans of College of Social Work at two other universities.

If that wasn’t good enough, I learned a local judge has read my memoir and recommended the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) personnel read my memoir during his meeting with them. In the United States, more than 500,000 children are in foster care because they cannot safely live with their families. Nearly 70,000 National CASA volunteers serve approximately 280,000 of those abused or neglected children every year.

Somewhere out there is a young child in Child Protective Services that will benefit because a social worker or a CASA member read my memoir and did right by the child. That one child will fulfill my dream.

And that is an Oprah moment.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rules of Engagement

Love is not an easy emotion for me to accept from another.

I have sat here and read the above sentence several times. I want to change it because it is not exactly what goes on inside me, but I haven’t found a better way to say it.

Sharing love with another is not easy for me. Well. . .Okay. That’s better. I can accept love from others. However, it is a struggle for me to trust that love. The underlining doubt belongs to my childhood experience that the human cannot be trusted. I say human because gender and age are not a consideration.

As a young boy experiencing physical and sexual abuse from other boys, I created rules of survival. Stay sharp, act dumb, and keep control. As long as I kept myself within those rules, I was not seen as vulnerable and therefore; I experienced less abuse.

I thought I would be safe with friends. They wouldn’t harm me. So, I didn’t use my rules with them. I soon learned there are friendly bullies. The problem became which ones to trust. The solution was simple. None. Make friends but never drop the rules.

That solution worked as a child, but not as an adult. It creates a conflict I’ve yet to resolve. An emotional relationship with a woman and my survival rules are mutually exclusive.

Maybe I can say this a better way. As best as I can, I never give anyone the knowledge of how to emotionally hurt me. They don’t get “inside” me and I try not showing them how I feel when they do hurt me.

That’s control.

Charles Vella

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My park bench

Strange how it works. MW's response to my response to her first comment made me think of Fort Washington Park at about 173rd street and Fort Washington Avenue in Manhattan.

The park was my escape from the loneliness of my bedroom in a foster home when I was teenager, living in Washington Heights, and struggling with life. I went to the park to play chess with the old men and listen to their stories of the “old days.” I played single-wall handball and didn’t mind the sting from slapping the small, hard, black ball with my hand. I sat on a park bench to watch people parade past me.

Sometimes, I talked to strangers who wanted to share my bench.

Sometimes, I sat on a park bench and had long conversations with the bench. Why not? I talked to the window when I was very young and forced to stay in my bedroom in a foster home. I was still living in foster homes.

I’m 72 and sometimes I sit on a park bench at the north end of Owensboro, Kentucky and watch the flowing Ohio River, and talk to the bench. Of course, the dialogue is different. I am no longer struggling with my life.

There are those early morning hours when I need to talk and I sit with my imaginary park bench, flowing river, and I talk.

Am I crazy? Probably.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


I believe the emotional pain I experienced as a child cannot be quantified. The disappointment of a rich boy who does not get the car he wants is no greater than the disappointment of a poor boy who does not get his BB gun. There is no scale of 1 to 10. The tears I shed are no more or less than another person 's tears. The pain I endured is no more or less than another person 's pain.

I write this because some people tend to express the idea that I had one of the worst childhood's imaginable. That somehow, my struggles diminish theirs, leaving them with very little to complain about. I understand where they're coming from, but I also don't believe my childhood is a valid measure of anyone else's nor do I believe that the pain of one person should lessen the pain of another.

I also believe it's wrong for people to expect me to forgive those that abused me and forget the abuse. I have accepted it, but will never forgive them. With acceptance, I no longer struggle with the past. I have learned from those bad experiences and they are just as much a part of me as any good experiences. I am at peace with it all.  

This is not a contradiction that the innocent seven year-old boy still exists within me longing for Momma or that acceptance would have resolved that need. It means I have accepted he exists within me. Sometimes, late at night, when I’m thinking of Momma and the tears begin, I am grateful that I can feel the lost love. I am most human when this occurs.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Remembering Momma

Sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, I have an overwhelming wish to go back in time; back to when I was seven. I want to be that little boy climbing onto Mamma’s lap and know what love is. I want to snuggle against her, have the warmth of her body against me, and feel her love surround me. No words. Only love. And every time I make this wish, the tears in my eyes blur the words on the paper. It's okay.

Every time I have this mood and need to revisit Momma, I cry and I know why. The only time I knew love as a child was with Momma. My real mother on the other hand, the one I was forced to live with when I was seven, gave me everything but love: severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by her. After six months, I was removed and placed in a child shelter.

It is not so much I learned how to endure severe pain. It is not so much that I coped with long period of being alone. It is not so much that the years of abuse continued. It is not so much that I lost my child’s innocence at seven. Or that by eight, I had already experienced sexual encounters with my mother, one girl, and several boys. It has something to do with that even at 72, I still long to be a seven year-old boy loved by Momma.

When I'm gone, remember only this. “Weep not for me. I am with Momma.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Before Dawn

The night has always been my friend. Not the night so much, but the early morning; between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. when the world outside of my room is silent.

When everyone else in that external world is at rest. When they are no longer active. When I know they will not interrupt my time being alone. When the only thing that breaks the quiet is the occasional ascending wail of an emergency vehicle.

In years past, before the PC, I would sit at the kitchen table, sip black coffee, smoke cigarettes, and write. I no longer smoke, but still sit at the kitchen table and write. Later, once the external world is no longer at rest, I enter whatever I wrote, longhand, into my PC.

I enjoy the time alone. Not that I am quiet. I always read what I write out loud. I taste each sentence as one would taste the contents of a pot on the stove by taking a small sample on a spoon. The sentence is the smallest thought you can express. Each sentence must “taste” good to me. If not, I line it out. Sometimes, I line out the entire sheet.

Some people who have similar pasts turn to art. Me, I write. And being alone in the early morning hours is something I have come to love.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I hate this - having to create titles

While reading other's blogs I realized I don't have major problems--nay--not even minor--at least none worthy of being written. I'm 72. I had a terrible childhood. One of foster homes and shelters and severe abuse. All of which ended when I joined the US Army in the summer of 1950. Since then, I've had a good life. Maybe better than most. Old age brings physical problems but none at this time that limits my life beyond I can't run. I've had open heart surgery, my abdominal aorta replaced, and I suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease (COPD). I'm still above ground and enjoying it. What more could I want?

I also know not to give advice based on my life's experiences or as an observer of other's life experiences.

Anyway, this is a good start.
Have a good day.